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 BLOG: Orchid Care 101

RE:   Re-Potting! 

​When is it time to transplant?

Hi, I'm Kate, a potter in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.

I make ceramic homes for amazing orchids and their colorful owners! 

So let's talk transplanting! 

One size pot does not fit all, right? 

The same goes for transplanting orchids. 

There's no generic formula for orchid cultivation. 

The amount of time spent in the pottery is not always the reason to transplant. For instance, mini orchids like vandas (neofineitia) grow slowly, while dendrobium need relatively more resources to thrive.

Let's start with a few golden rules that apply to all potted orchids:

(Let me know if you have a golden oldie and I'll list it here)

This is the oldest rule in the book:


  1. All orchids are air plants, they take food/water from humid air
  2. Orchids wilt and turn yellow from too much water on roots
  3. Orchids like to be misted with purified water, especially in arid climates like the desert, or homes with central heating
  4. Keep the tag or create a tag with the orchid's info
  5. Does the tag match the orchid?
  6. NEVER use regular potting soil, use Miracle Grow Orchid Bark or a medium designed for that orchid species/genus (Latin name on tag)
  7. Wait until the bloom cycle has finished
  8. Look under the potting medium, are the air roots and/or pseudo bulbs healthy? Are they plump or wrinkled?
  9. Is the medium compacted, musty, fine-textured and degrading?
  10. Does the medium smell fresh? 
  11. Have the correct size pot for your variety ready
  12. Relative humidity? Think Miami vs Phoenix. The same orchid will have different needs in these places. Does your 'drip' tray provide the correct amount of humidity or too much?
  13. Wash your drip trays often to control root rot, fungus, and bacteria
  14. Have a copy of Orchids for Dummies, by Steven A. Frowine

Many growers use the plant's tag to make informed transplanting choices. The variety is usually listed first in English, followed by the orchid species/genus/family (leaf and root shape) in Latin.

Moth orchids, or phalanopsis have long, silver-green air roots. Lots of these pink-tipped roots sticking out of fresh-smelling medium is a sign of healthy growth. 

Happy growing!


 RE: Got Gloves?

Everyone has an orchid that they love -- to death.

I've had my share! Here's a good example of what happens when an orchid enthusiast forgets to wear gloves and handles the unglazed orchid pottery with bare hands!  

Yep, that IS a nice furry batch of mold on both the unglazed terracotta, and unglazed raku pottery. 

I believe the common name is: #[email protected]!!?%#! ...and yes, it's in the shape of a handprint because molds live to mock humans who water too much!

I think this common white mold should be considered the unofficial flower of the Seattle area!

Hi, I'm Kate, a potter living in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest who makes ceramic homes for orchids and their lovely owners!

There's an organic fix for this common issue, even if your favorite orchid is potted. STOP WATERING (as much), and lighten up the misting...especially after dipping the pottery in water 1x every 4-6 weeks to hydrate.

You can still have those nice chats with your orchid, just not as misty. shown here: dipping in cinnamon-water to get rid of the mold, mold spores, or waterborne fungus, also called: #@%*!#%! root rot, crown rot etc.

  • MIX 1-Tablespoon organic cinnamon (preferably Ceylon) with 1-Quart room temperature water. Double this measurement for larger plants and use a bucket.
  • DIP empty pot or pot-with-plant in the cinnamon-water for 30-seconds
  • RUB cinnamon into ceramic
  • RINSE Plant and pottery WELL (60-seconds+)
  • WASH hydration tray and gravel with lemon juice. 
  • RINSE WELL. Do this every 4-6 weeks
  • DO NOT WATER, MIST or FERTILIZE FOR A WEEK, depending on your orchid's hydration schedule and the relative humidity in your location-- think Phoenix VS Miami, or Memphis in the winter with the heat on VS summer with the outdoor humidity @ 65%

Cinnamon Dip Before and After

IF there aren't gloves nearby, I use a baggie, a paper towel, a piece of paper, or I pull down my shirt sleeves and use them for "gloves" to handle the pottery.

Happy growing!


Scary  Houseplant Mold?

  Hydration Tray or Drip Tray?

Drip tray or hydration tray? What's the difference? 

I'm asked this question a lot. 

Hi, I'm Kate, a potter living in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.

I make versatile 'homes' for orchids and their colorful owners!

Vanda or Neofinetia...the plants really don't care what you call them!

The same goes for the trays. 

Organic style or traditional round--

call it what you like, this tray will do the job.

The difference is the way the owner can manipulate the water below the pot to suit their climate, be it Phoenix in spring, Miami in summer, or New York City in winter, the amount of gravel in our (deeper design) tray will deliver more or less humidity the plant's atmosphere.

Orchids are air plants. Their roots absorb misty-nutrients from the humidity in the air. Some orchids thrive with wet/dry cycles, while others prefer even moisture in the air and pottery. 

Our unglazed raku (carbon-infused) pots wick water to let air roots absorb water vapor without bogging down new roots below the surface.

We suggest misting the pottery daily with filtered water, and keeping water in the tray. 

Remember to wash trays often. 

I use bottled lemon juice and a paper towel for 1-minute, twice a month. 

It kills root rot/fungus organically and rinses cleanly. 

More gravel = more humidity

Less gravel = more water to pottery and plant 

No gravel = wet/dry cycles

Orchid and pot can be dipped in filtered water (like unglazed terracotta) before fertilizing to avoid a build up of fertilizer, also called 'salt burn'.

We like the orchid growing/troubleshooting guide: Orchids for Dummies, by Steven A. Frowine.

And always suggest GroMore orchid fertilizers for their quality, and variety-specific bloom cycles. 

We like Hawaiian Mist Floral Spray for all orchids. It feeds all plants through the leaves/roots (foliar feeding) without leaving spots. Miracle Grow makes a good orchid mist too.

Happy growing!


Activated Charcoal VS Horticultural Charcoal

All charcoal is fired in kilns. The biggest difference between horticultural charcoal and activated charcoal is the nitrogen, argon and other chemicals added during manufacturing. Orchid growers choose horticultural charcoal because it's cheaper, and fired without chemicals. Both types of char add oxygen and absorb bacteria in standing water.

Horticultural charcoal is usually made from fruitwood, bamboo, or coconut shells that are kiln-fired in a low-oxygen atmosphere called: pyrolysis. The oxygen reduction process changes the structure of the charcoal, making it more porous.

Hi, I'm Kate, a potter living in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. My studio makes ceramic homes for orchids and their wild owners! So let's talk about simple, organic, inexpensive water filtration!

Activated charcoal is useful stuff. It can be made from soft coal, wood, bamboo, or coconut shells. It's usually kiln-fired "in reduction", but slowly and to higher temperatures, making it more expensive. High quality activated char is used in hospitals to absorb toxins in the body. I buy activated charcoal capsules at the grocery store, and keep them at home for emergencies. Mixed with water, activated charcoal paste removes toxins from bee stings, mosquito and spider bites (so does Epsom salt). 

Growers often use activated charcoal in orchid cultivation, but should know it may be made from soft coal, and likely has a cocktail of undisclosed chemicals added.

Horticultural charcoal is cleaner, cheaper and terrific for keeping water clean. 

We suggest using it in plant medium, and in trays. 

We change our "tray char" twice a year. 

Horticultural charcoal adds oxygen to the hydration water while filtering bacteria, rot and fungus.

Fertilizer burn from charcoal? 

No, contrary to old school thinking; charcoal doesn't cause 'salt burn'. 

In fact, it absorbs excess fertilizer in the tray, and stores it until the grower can replace it.

When it comes to high nitrogen in any plant food; I'm a big believer in the 'less is more' method. 

Over time, 'fertilizer salts' build-up in the orchid's sponge-like medium. Eventually, tender roots and pseudobulbs get chemical burns when more fertilizer-water is applied. This also re-hydrates the concentrated (dried) fertilizer "salts" in the medium and the tray.

Leading members of NWOS always suggest washing drip trays as often as you fertilize, and hydrating the orchid medium with plain water before fertilizing to avoid salt burn issues.

Orchid growers have used horticultural charcoal as a water filter for years.

We suggest using it with gravel in hydration trays or inside our raku orchid pots'

built-in drainage ring.

We always suggest fertilizing with care. Less is more when it comes to fertilizers high in nitrogen.

Fertilizers can build up when the water evaporates, then re-hydrate when mixing with the new application of fertilizer. Horticultural charcoal in drip trays helps remove excess fertilizer in water.

We suggest dipping the entire raku orchid pot and plant plain water before fertilizing to help avoid 'fertilizer burn', or 'salt burn'.

Dry potting medium and any unglazed pottery need to be hydrated or fertilizer will concentrate there and chemically 'burn' air roots. Washing trays as often as you fertilize also helps growers avoid 'salt burn' issues.

We fire our unglazed orchid pottery in an oxygen reduction kiln using an old method called: raku.

O-Pots are naturally carbon-infused to help keep water clean.

We sell our pottery online to orchid growers all over the USA.


I'm Kate, a potter in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest

who makes 'ceramic homes' for orchids and their cultivated owners.

Clients often order pottery from my website with the hope it'll fit.

My pottery runs large, primitive, thicker and heavier than unglazed,

mass produced terra cotta.

It's good to measure the space before ordering, and add 2".

I always request an email after the order arrives to confirm the

insured pottery arrived undamaged.

It is pottery, after all,

and it's no secret that some delivery drivers

are retired from Nascar racing...'it' happens.

We have a 100% replacement guarantee and

only ship FedEx Ground/Home for this reason.

The red-brown stoneware in the photo (above) is a good example of a custom order that arrived safely.

This client in Kentucky has lovely old cattelyas that live on a windowsill.

Basically, his orchids are members of the family.

He wanted barely-glazed pots, 9" tall x 7" wide, with no holes.

The orchids were huge, but the hydration tray needed to be small,

very stable and fit a 6" wide space.

Another favorite client cultivates orchids,

and does well in regional orchid shows.

He uses our unglazed raku O-Pots in his greenhouse,

and custom designs for 'cover pots' in competition.

The 4" and 3.5" blue pots in the photo above are for his vandas,

and a size and style I'm happy to make on request.

This orchid pot set (above) was recently designed for a client in San Francisco,

whose favorite old orchid lives on a windowsill in her kitchen.

The space was limited to 5" wide, and the pot too!

The project was both inspiring and challenging. After a few prototypes and several photos sent,

the winning pot and tray set was snug on the window-facing edge (shown),

with room for hydration water on the elongated sides.

The disc-foot was larger and thicker for stability in a city famous for big and small earthquakes.

The photo below shows the front of the custom hydration tray on the left,

with the snugged, 'window side' of the tray visible on the right in the photo's shadow.

I'm happy to make custom orchid pots.

Inquiries are sent to: [email protected]

The things I need to know are on the CUSTOM ORDER FORM page of my site:

Three examples are:

1. How wide is the ledge or space

2. How tall and wide (across) is the pot to be

3. Is the orchid pot to be glazed, slightly glazed, or unglazed pot

(the tray will be glazed a matching color)

The Art of Hydration . . .

Watering orchids is an art, a science, and a growth process

for the plants and their humans alike.

Every orchid species has a story to tell.

When we take the time to listen,

the exchange becomes a meditation on peace, beauty and balance.

A healthy balance of air and water is easier to achieve in a hothouse,

but not all of us have that kind of space, right?

Yes, it is possible to have great humidity indoors

in Arizona, for instance,

or @ New Years in Seattle

when it's pouring outside, but dry indoors with the heat on.

I love avid, Pacific Northwest orchid growers

whose passion for cultivation have few boundaries.

They have small, brightly-lit nylon greenhouses

right in the middle of their super warm,

VERY humid living rooms.

I admire their devotion--and their thriving plants

(as I trip over a bag of growing medium).

I'm a ceramicist in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest

who makes 'pottery homes' for orchids and their owners.

Part of the art of growing orchids rests

in a hydration system that's beautifully functional.

Our unglazed orchid pots are infused with carbon

from the raku kiln firing process. 

Raku orchid pots are naturally colored.

Each has it's own unique flame patterns.

We never stain with India ink,

and only "smoke" the pottery with organic cedar shavings.

The newspapers we use are printed with soy ink.

Our raku O-Pots wick water

They have a built-in ring to hold activated carbon,

because clean hydration water is healthier for plants.

Remember to wash your drip trays often.


Healthy orchids are a blessing to any space, urban or urbane.

On a good day they can impart a quiet, artful beauty.

When we slow down and tune into our orchid's subtle frequency,

the exchange is calming.

I'm Kate, a potter in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest

who makes ceramic homes for orchids

and their unique owners!

I love making functional, rugged pottery for orchids and their growers.

The symbol on the side of this orchid pot says: "Urban Blessings".

It's also my potter's 'chop', a time honored signature stamp.

It's a 'message in a bottle' I send to all.

I've recently started designing ceramic baskets for phals,

and other orchids with photosynthetic roots.

People all over the USA have left feedback and photos on my website.

An accomplished orchid cultivator, and member of the Sacramento Orchid Society uses our pots for many of his plants. Charles' feedback is helpful and variety-specific.